The head of the Capitol Police union has warned that hundreds of officers could leave the department if more is not done to protect them following the latest deadly attack.
Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, said that the department is already “struggling to meet existing mission requirements” as it is 233 officers below meeting its authorized level of more than 2,000.
Papathanasiou said that more officers may still quit following on from the ram-raiding attack on Friday, April 2, which left Capitol Police Officer William “Billy” Evans dead, and one other officer injured.
The suspect in the attack, 25-year-old Noah Green, was shot dead after he exited the car he had just crashed into the Capitol barriers while wielding a knife.
The incident occurred three months after the January 6 insurrection where a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building, an attack that left Officer Brian Sicknick dead and dozens more injured.
Another Capitol Police officer died by suicide weeks later.
“We are struggling to meet existing mission requirements even with the officers working massive amounts of forced overtime,” Papathanasiou said.
“In the next 3-5 years we have another 500 officers who will be eligible to retire. Many of these officers could put in their retirement papers tomorrow.
“I’ve had many younger officers confide in me that they’re actively looking at other agencies and departments right now.
“We have now lost two officers in the line of duty this year,” Papathanasiou added. “Another officer has taken his own life and we have 80 officers who were seriously injured in the insurrection. Some of those injured officers may never return to duty.”
Papathanasiou is now calling for Congress to agree to more security being implemented at the Capitol as the department is facing “a crisis in morale and force numbers” following the latest attack.
The union head made reference to the review by retired Lieutenant General Russel Honoré following the January 6 insurrection.
The report made a number of recommendations to prepare for future attacks at the Capitol, including hiring more officers, providing better training, and improving the physical infrastructure surrounding the building.
“The [Capitol Police] is not postured to track, assess, plan against, or respond to this plethora of threats due to significant capacity shortfalls, inadequate training, immature processes, and an operating culture that is not intelligence-driven,” Honoré wrote.
“We support General Honoré recommendations and had the opportunity to meet with him and his team the day before Officer Evans was tragically killed,” Papathanasiou said.
“As I explained to him, these improvements are critical, but our first priority has to be retaining our existing officers. There are immediate steps Congress can take to address this. The question is, will Congress do so?”
Capitol Police has been contacted for comment.